Chicago trees dangerously frozen from the `polar vortex` - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Chicago trees dangerously frozen from the `polar vortex`

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John Lough showing cracking in a tree from frost. (Photo courtesy of Tisha Lewis) John Lough showing cracking in a tree from frost. (Photo courtesy of Tisha Lewis)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Inside a white Department of Streets and Sanitation van is the team responsible for protecting one of Chicago's most important natural resources - trees.

They get cold too and many of them were damaged after last week's sub-zero temperatures.

"If you look and you see a crack through here and you can see light through the other side that means it goes all the way through, then the tree needs to come out or if you can see inside the tree and it's decayed and it's rotten," said John Lough, a Bureau of Forestry Senior City Forester.

This Linden tree in Archer Heights is frost-cracked.

Senior City Forester John Lough explains to Fox 32's Tisha Lewis what that means and shows the long, vertical fissure from the tree's trunk.

"When we start hitting the temperatures where we're getting down below ten degrees is when we start seeing the freeze-crack phenomenon. Essentially what we have is a warm sunny day shining on the trunk of a very cold tree and that temperature difference causes the tree wood to expand and actually crack open," said Lough.

With 545,000 trees lining city streets, the forestry team of twelve is tasked with seeing which ones are structurally sound after last week's Polar Vortex.

"If they start cracking, they start falling on people, doing damage to vehicles," said Archer Heights resident Larry Craig.

Craig lives near the Linden tree the city was inspecting Friday afternoon.

For now, it stays but many more could be at risk.

"They have got to come out and check these things more often. Check everything more often you know," said Craig.

Craig says he has not called 3-1-1 but his neighbor has, "I haven't personally, I know my neighbor has across the way a couple of times," said Craig.

So far more than a dozen 3-1-1 calls about frost-cracked trees have come in this week.

Lough says the calls reporting frost-cracked trees have increased compared to this time last year.

"Yes this winter with the much cooler temperatures and really the fluctuating temperatures between the warmer and the cold weather it really seems to increase the freeze-crack phenomenon," said Craig.

Fox 32's Tisha Lewis reports that the sub-zero temperatures did not kill off the Emerald Ash Borer, a beetle known for destroying trees; it turns out the Polar Vortex would have needed to last nearly three months to kill the insect.

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